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State College School Board Set to Consider $85M Voter Referendum for High School Project

by on February 10, 2014 6:25 AM

UPDATED at 12:15 PM

The State College Area School Board is expected to approve a voter referendum question Monday night -- a key step in the planned renovations at State College Area High School.

In December, the board narrowed down the maximum amount it will ask taxpayers to sign-off on for improvements to the district's two high schools.

Voters within the school district will ultimately decide if the district can incur the debt for construction and renovations to the high schools.

A draft version of the question reads:

"Shall debt in the sum of $85 million dollars for the purpose of financing new construction and renovations for the State College Area High School be authorized to be incurred as debt approved by the electors?"

The wording was developed under the direction of 501 Group, the district's referendum consultant. In addition, this draft will be reviewed with the county elections office. The board could approve changes to the question at Monday's meeting.

The Centre County Board of Elections must approve the ballot question. The question cannot be longer than 75 words.

The question would then appear on the ballot in the Primary Election on May 20. Any registered voter can vote on the referendum question, regardless of party affiliation.

The total project cost is estimated at $115 million with a 5.3 percent interest rate and a term of 30 years. The district will take $10 million from a reserve fund to put toward the project.

If voters approve the referendum, the related tax would remain in effect until the debt for the high school is paid in full, which is an estimated 30 years.

The referendum tax would show up as a separate line item on a taxpayer's bill and be in addition to the regular school district tax rate.

As for pending renovations and expansions at district's high school campus, two architectural firms have presented cost estimates.

Crabtree, Rohrbaugh & Associates Architects estimate the project to cost roughly $115 million. The Alexander Building Construction estimate ranged between $118 million and $124 million. The largest differences in estimates were in costs for renovation and site work. Both estimates are preliminary and expected to change as details for the project are finalized.

The board is not expected to increase the established project cost of $115 million.

As of now, the project will include demolition of 97,000 square-feet, 385,000 square-feet of new construction, and renovations to 92,000 square-feet at the South Building. At the North building the project will include demolition of 137,000 square-feet, renovation of 101,000 square-feet and new construction of 20,000 square-feet.

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Jennifer Miller is a reporter for StateCollege.com. She has worked in journalism since 2005. She's covered news at the local, state and national level with an emphasis on crime and local government.
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